Some Dangerous Minds readers will immediately recognize the names of Ferrante & Teicher, the prodigiously talented dual piano purveyors of the easiest easy listening who sold 90 million albums in their five decade career, but those readers will be of a certain age or else crazed crate diggers.
I just asked my wife, who has deep knowledge of all kinds of zany things, what the names “Ferrante & Teicher” meant to her and she said “Nothing” (we were even listening to them at the time). Most people under 45 will draw a complete blank when that question would be posed to them. However, those of us north of that age will likely recall the “grand twins of the twin grands” from various light entertainment TV programs in the 60s and 70s (they were probably on The Lawrence Welk Show a lot) and our grandparents record collections. The pair was primarily known for their dexterously executed two piano mind-meld arrangements of popular classical music pieces, film themes and Broadway show tunes. They were a huge draw on the “pops” classical concert circuit. Along with the likes of Peter Nero and Arthur Fiedler, they produced the whitest, most inoffensive music ever made—which isn’t to say that they weren’t great, because they were really quite extraordinary musicians.
Before becoming the of the biggest selling instrumental acts of all time, Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher were classically trained pianists who met at Juilliard. The pair started out doing John Cage-influenced “prepared piano” pieces (sticking cardboard between keys, laying metal bars across them, using glass mallets and so forth) and used a lot of studio manipulation, operating in the Joe Meek/hi-fi demonstration territory a little bit, too. Some of their early material, as heard on mid-1950s albums like Soundproof, Blast Off! and Soundblast sounds like, I dunno, an Eisenhower-era version of Tangerine Dream (Isn’t that description intriguing? I’m proud of that one…).
When the duo signed to United Artists in 1960 it was suggested to them that they might want to record some movie themes and their career instantly took off with their version of the theme from Billy Wilder’s classic comedy, The Apartment and their stirring rendition of the “Theme From Exodus” (which made it to #2 on the singles chart). Many people might have assumed that Ferrante and Teicher were a gay couple because of the dressing alike “twins” nature of their two piano shtick (they were neither related or twins), but the matching mustaches, horn-rimmed glasses, pompadour toupees and the bargain basement Liberace tuxedos were just a part of the act. Both were married at least once and had kids.
I expected that Ferrante & Teicher would have some sort of critical re-appraisal, like Esquivel did during the whole “lounge” craze—they’re awesome!—but that never happened. It’s kind of strange considering HOW LARGE of a flea market and 25 cent record store bin footprint they left behind. Imagine a warehouse with 90 million albums in it. A lot of their records are still floating around. Why haven’t young people with ironic facial hair discovered Ferrante & Teicher? Why haven’t more of their songs been sourced for obscure break beats? Why have virtually none of their 150 albums ever been released on CD?
To add insult to injury, there’s precious little about Ferrante & Teicher on the Internet, their website has hardly been updated since they died and they have almost no presence on the torrent trackers. At least there are several choice clips of them on YouTube, doing what they did best.
A great example of their more avant-garde earlier work, the gorgeous, Martin Denny-esque “African Echoes”:
I have a special memory of Ferrante & Teicher because I actually went to see them in concert on my first real “date,” believe it or not, when I was in the 8th grade, with the young lady who would end up being my girlfriend throughout much of my teens. Perhaps it’s an event recalled decades later with particular fondness because it was such an auspicious night in my young life, but I would honestly have to say that it was one of my peak concert going experiences, it really was (up there with Einstürzende Neubauten, Crass, dozens of Nick Cave shows, the evil Psychic TV gig I described the other day and Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl). The show was held in an intimate outdoor amphitheater and I still have a strong sense memory of being there, where we were sitting relative to the stage, the lightning bus and how dazzling, virtuoso and telepathic their playing was.
More Ferrante & Teicher after the jump…